Monomania L.A.

What happens when collecting becomes more than a hobby? File cabinets conquer living rooms. Boxes scrape the ceilings of garages. A trip to a paper ephemera show becomes a grail quest. Even dumpsters offer the promise of a new acquisition.

Such collectors perform a tremendous service to scholars and the public by focusing so precisely on a particular slice of Los Angeles history. Often they document subjects overlooked by others and in more meaningful detail, becoming uniquely qualified to interpret their respective areas of interest. Countless historians, journalists, and other researchers have built their work on the foundation of these collectors’ single-minded focus.

Through a series of short documentary films available online and broadcast by KCET-TV, and with the generous support of Cal Humanities, Monomania L.A. profiles five L.A. as Subject collectors who turned their private obsession into a public resource. These monomaniacs have documented disparate subjects—the California orange, sci-fi reading circles, political graphics, the Santa Monica beach, black Los Angeles—but their stories share one thing in common: a passion for history that has enriched our understanding of Southern California’s past.


About the Project

Presented by the USC Libraries and L.A. as Subject, Monomania L.A. is scheduled to air on public television station KCET at 8:00 p.m. on March 17, 2015.

The films star:

  • Carol Wells, executive director and founder of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics
  • David Boule, private collector and author of "The Orange and the Dream of California"
  • Joseph Hawkins, director of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries
  • Ernest Marquez, private collector and author of "Santa Monica Beach: A Collector's Pictorial History"
  • Kent Kirkton, director of CSUN's Tom and Ethel Bradley Center

The production team includes:

  • Joris Debeij, filmmaker
  • David Kipen, host and humanities advisor
  • Nathan Masters, producer